Covid wave in China: Millions infected, many dead

One million Covid-infected people every day, thousands of dead according to estimates: In China there is growing concern about new variants, emergency hospitals are being opened.

A CDU politician is calling for all flights to and from China to be stopped. / Covid wave in China

More traffic, fuller factories, but also many infections: China is clearly feeling the end of the zero-Covid policy. There are an estimated one million new infections per day in the country. The British research institute Airfinity is currently assuming more than 5000 corona deaths every day. According to their model calculations, the current wave of infections will experience two peaks in January and March with possibly 3.7 million and 4.2 million cases a day, respectively.

However, the official figures are far from that. The National Health Commission speaks of 3761 new corona cases with symptoms compared to 3030 the day before, new deaths are not reported, the total number of victims remains at 5241.

Crematorium workers in eastern Beijing report that they have a lot more to do than usual. Hearses and minivans that have been converted into minivans are piling up on the access road. The police will come after a few minutes. Foreign journalists are not welcome here. The Chinese state and party leadership does not want this information to leak out. The communist government speaks of a mild course of the disease in the highly contagious omicron variant.

Beware of new variants

The government is now opening fever clinics and emergency hospitals and is pushing drug manufacturers to produce painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol more quickly. The Chinese health authorities are also monitoring the possible development of new virus variants.

All provinces would have to select three hospitals in three cities each, which would collect samples of 15 infections, 10 serious illnesses and all the dead every week, director of the virus institute of the national health bureau Xu Wenbo said, according to state media.

After the decoding and analysis of the genomes, the study results should be reported within a week. In this way, the current omicron variants as well as “possible symptoms, transmission abilities and pathogenicity of new variants with potential biological changes” could be observed in real time, the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

No more flights to China?

The wave of infections also concerns politicians in Germany: The foreign policy spokesman for the Union faction, Jürgen Hardt, calls for a stop to flight connections with the People’s Republic. “The exploding Covid numbers in China caused by the Chinese government’s failed corona policy are threatening the whole world with a new wave of infections,” said the CDU MP to the editorial network Germany (RND). “We must not repeat the mistake of three years ago and should now stop all flight connections to and from China immediately.” He campaigned for the flights to be allowed again only when it was certain that no “new, dangerous mutation” was imminent.

The CDU foreign politician also spoke out in favor of renewing the offer to Beijing to use effective mRNA vaccines there. The “arrogance” of China’s President Xi Jinping is “virtually limitless,” said Hardt, who also described Xi as a “dictator.” “His hubris costs lives in his own country every day.”

The health policy spokesman for the Greens, Janosch Dahmen, advocated using masks more frequently with a view to China and the high level of sick leave in this country. “Not only because of the development in China, but also because of the other respiratory diseases in Germany, it is important that we use the mask indoors much more – completely independent of which rules apply,” he told the RND. He also expressed concern about possible new variants due to the high number of infections in China.

China’s U-turn in Corona policy

After almost three years of lockdowns, forced quarantines, mass testing and contact tracing, the most populous country abruptly lifted its tough zero-Covid policy on December 7th. The reason for the turnaround was that the infections with the new omicron variants were no longer as severe.

The epidemiologist Ben Cowling from the University of Hong Kong is critical of the opening in winter. In addition, an advance warning for the population would have been urgently needed: “That would have been the opportunity for the hospitals to prepare, to stock up on medicines, for example antiviral drugs,” says Cowling. “Plus a four-dose booster campaign with a two-month window to give everyone a chance to get their booster.”

“Health authorities distort relevant information”

Former university lecturer Wu Qiang thinks the Chinese bureaucracy is too deadlocked to prepare for change. He is one of the few Chinese who are still critical of the country. The extremely tough policy has limited decision-makers’ ability to prepare for policy change, Wu Qiang said. “At the same time, over the past three years, they have wasted resources by pouring money into building quarantine camps and dedicating all administrative staff to control – without improving the public health system.”

According to Wu Qiang, Chinese scientists also understood that the virus was becoming more and more contagious and that the zero-Covid policy would not work in the long term. But most Chinese scientists are forbidden to express their opinions. “The few so-called scientists from the health authority who are entitled to speak their mind distort relevant information for China’s public and also for decision-makers.”

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